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Loretto, Gravel Switch will be nominated for National Register

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By Stephen Lega

Loretto and Gravel Switch could be added to the National Register of Historic Places by the end of the year.

The Kentucky Historic Preservation Review Board met Sept. 26 at the Opera House in Springfield. During that meeting, the board members who were present voted unanimously in favor of recommending four "crossroads communities" in Marion and Washington counties for the National Register. Mackville and Willisburg are the Washington County communities included in the nomination.

This is only one step in the process, however.

The recommendation will be passed along to Marty Perry, the National Register coordinator for the Kentucky Heritage Council. Perry will send the nomination to the National Register office in Washington D.C., and that office will make the final decision on whether the communities will be added to the list of historic places.

No one from Loretto or Gravel Switch attended last week's meeting, but Perry said his office had received several letters from residents in Loretto expressing opposition to the nomination.

After the meeting, Perry met with some Mackville residents, who had similar concerns about how being on the National Register would affect their community.

"It doesn't have any power over property owners," Perry told them. "It doesn't have any power over city or state government."

In other words, Perry said an owner's property rights are not affected by having that property on the National Register. If an owner wants to build an addition, repaint a property or even tear it down, he or she would still be allowed to do so.

Perry added that being on the National Register would only have a limited effect if a federal agency planned a project that could affect a historic property. For example, if the federal government wanted to build a highway, but planned to tear down a historic house to complete the road, the National Registry officials might ask the agency to alter its plans to preserve the house. But even in those cases, the house might still be torn down, Perry said.

Jennifer Ryall was hired by Preservation Kentucky to research the crossroads communities. Ryall is an  architectural historian with the University of Kentucky and the Kentucky Archaeological Survey. She also gave the presentation last week.

Ryall said it's not unusual for people to be concerned about what it means to be added to the National Register of Historic Places. She added that there is a lot of misunderstanding about what it means.

"You can do whatever you want with your personal property," Ryall said.

Loretto Mayor Robert Miles told the Enterprise last week that some people in Loretto were concerned that being added to the historic register would place restrictions on what they could do with their property, similar to the restrictions on the historic district in Bardstown.

Ryall and Perry both said Bardstown's restrictions are because the City of Bardstown passed its own ordinance about its historic district. The only way Loretto would face similar restrictions would be if that community passed its own ordinance.

"Every county decides its own zoning," Perry said.

Another issue that was raised by the Mackville residents was why there wasn't a meeting in Mackville about the nomination. (Loretto City Attorney Elmer George attempted to contact Perry last week with a similar concern.)

Perry said his office has a limited budget for travel. From a cost standpoint, they held one meeting in neutral sites in Marion and Washington counties rather than four separate meetings in each of the communities nominated for the National Register. A meeting was held Aug. 23 at the Marion County Public Library, but Perry said only five people from Marion County attended that meeting.

He added that the National Register may not make a decision until November about the nomination, but if property owners in the communities under consideration what to express their opposition for the nomination, they can still do so.

Property owners opposed to the nomination must write a letter that includes their name, the property they own and that they are opposed to being added to the National Register. The letter must also be notarized.

Those letters should be sent to:

Marty Perry

Kentucky Heritage Council

300 Washington Street

Frankfort, KY 40601

Ryall sees Loretto, Gravel Switch, Mackville and Willisburg as good examples of crossroads communities because of the way they are laid out, but she also understands that not everyone will see being on the National Register as a good thing.

"It's OK. It's their town," she said. "Whatever is right for them is what they'll do."